How Analyzing Regional Skills Can Lead to Successful Campus Expansion

Opening a new campus is a major financial investment for higher education institutions. In order to ensure the new campus will be successful, institutions need to know that they will attract the right students, and that their graduates will have the best skills and knowledge for their future careers. This requires identifying the right programs to teach at the new campus and ensuring they align with student interest and market demand.  

One way to help ensure a new campus is successful is to analyze local labor market data such as the most in demand jobs and skills, and to also facilitate ongoing dialogue among business, education, and workforce development leaders and policymakers. By understanding the needs of the local labor market, schools can design their programs and courses to better accommodate the local workforce, ensuring success for their students, new campus, and local businesses.  

Three of our clients faced—and solved—the challenge of opening new campuses and programs, and their experiences can provide a guide for other institutions.

Find Locations That Will Have the Highest Demand for Your Graduates 

Creating IT Futures offers IT-Ready, a bootcamp course that prepares underrepresented and underserved people to become IT specialists. So, when looking for new locations to open more IT-Ready programs, they sought out locations with a high demand for IT jobs, and that also had trouble filling these positions. These locations would have the greatest need for IT-Ready graduates, and the employers could become partners with Creating IT Futures. Using Burning Glass’ skills analysis tools, Creating IT Futures evaluated the national demand for IT skills, and then drilled down into specific regions to see the exact skill requirements, the time it was taking to fill IT jobs, and which employers were hiring.

Northeastern University took a different approach. They used a skills-first approach when analyzing locations and preparing programs. They began by first analyzing the local Boston metro area job market. Using Labor Insight’s user-friendly reports, Northeastern identified which skills were most valued by local employers, such as information security and project management. They then tailored their new programs to match the demand of the region. This method worked to ensure graduates would have many job opportunities available to them in their community. 

How to Determine if the Location is a Good Fit

Time needed to fill jobs

Look at the local job postings to see how long it’s taking to fill positions. If you see that jobs are taking weeks and months to fill, then there is clearly a high demand for these workers. This is exactly what Creating IT Futures did. They found that IT specialist jobs in Chicago, Denver, and Phoenix were taking a long time to fill. Closing these job gaps not only helps strengthen these economies, but it also aligns with Creating IT Future’s mission to help underrepresented and underserved people find jobs with employers who need great, qualified workers.

Partnership/donor opportunities

Once Creating IT Futures found IT job gaps in specific regions, they used Burning Glass data to identify the exact employers in need of talent, which allowed them to reach out and build partnerships. These partnerships help to ensure IT Ready’s courses are funded and that graduates have direct connections to jobs upon graduation.

“Understanding which companies were struggling with the time needed to fill roles was a key factor. Knowing this information allowed our team to reach out to companies in need of talent to build partnerships,” said Jeff Lareau, Manager, Strategic Partnerships at Creating IT Futures.  

Similarly, Northeastern found which employers were actively hiring in relevant sectors and regions. The university used this information to identify promising partners for its experiential learning programs and to get input as it develops new curricula. Labor market data also helps the university vet proposals from employers, checking whether or not there is enough market demand to merit further exploration of new opportunities

Target marketing efforts

Labor market data can also be used to boost marketing efforts. Northeastern analyzed Labor Insight data to determine where their marketing dollars would be most effective. Their analysts looked for clusters of job activity, for example, health research around Atlanta and cybersecurity in the Bay Area. Then, their marketing staff used that information to post targeted ads to promote these degree programs across Atlanta and the Bay Area since they knew people would be seeking advancement in health research and cybersecurity.

Sometimes the Best Option is to Stay Where You Are   

Often, an institution may want to consider whether an existing program is in the right place. That’s the challenge the University of Maryland Baltimore County faced when they opened their Master’s in Professional Studies in Geographical Information Systems in their Washington D.C. campus. Enrollment rates for this program were lower than expected, so the university considered moving the program to their Baltimore campus. However, after analyzing local job postings and skill requirements, the university found that Washington actually had a high demand for GIS skills at companies such as NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Security Agency. So they kept the program in the Washington campus and invested efforts to evolve the program to better accommodate their target audience.

Labor Market Data Can Help Shape Your Curricula Too

At Northeastern, the legal studies planning team reviewed job posting data in Program Insight to pinpoint industries, like finance and biotech, that showed the greatest demand for legal skills. Their team also identified additional skills required within each sector. These data helped the faculty decide which legal studies concentrations to develop and which ideas to set aside.

For more ideas on how to identify growth opportunities for your institution, read the full case studies for Creating IT Futures, UMBC, and Northeastern University. Feel free to contact us with any questions on how to use labor market data.